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Twice-around-the-clock with ESP: How the Rolex 24 compares to event planning

April 17, 2009

The Rolex 24 At Daytona is the most prestigious and grueling sports car race in North America. Drivers from around the world descend on Daytona Beach, Fla. to fight it out for a day on the racetrack for the title of champion and a coveted Daytona Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Rolex Watch.

One of our longtime clients sponsors a Daytona Prototype race car in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series, which sanctions the Rolex 24. Each year, they take a group of guests to the twice-around-the-clock race as part of an incentive program that rewards the top sellers with a three-night stay in a four-star hotel and suite passes at the racetrack.

Having recently finished the event, not many people would compare a 24-hour sports car race to event planning. At Event Source Professionals inc., we see a lot of similarities.

For one, both take a great deal of pre-planning. For a team to win a race, preparations start the day after the last race of the previous season. Hundreds of hours are spent in the shop and on the track building and tweaking the car. The engine has to be tuned correctly, the rear spoiler has to be adjusted properly for balance and the suspension has to be prepared to last until the checkered flag. A problem can set you back, so teams must be prepared for any situation that arises.

For a successful event, hours are spent in the office, on the phone and computer researching to “build” the perfect program. Preparations start months in advance. Venues are scouted and visited, menus are selected, activity options are researched, collateral is produced and contracts are negotiated. Like the 24-hour race, everything has to be in place for the event to run smoothly. A race team looks for the competitive edge that will set them apart from the others; ESP looks for the unique touches that make each event special and memorable.

What sets sports car racing apart from other forms of racing is teamwork. For the Rolex 24, each team must use at least three drivers, so trust and quick driver changes are crucial. Teamwork is something ESP has relied on for more than 20 years. For this event, we had a team of four “drivers.” Three were dedicated to the main group, while one was dedicated to a smaller VIP group. Communication is key on the racetrack and key for ESP. While the drivers and crew use radios, ESP relies on their timelines and cell phones to stay one step ahead of the planned activities and to ensure everyone has a good time.

Competing in a 24-hour race takes a tremendous amount of patience. When a slower car is impeding traffic or a pit stop takes longer than planned, the driver and the team must remain calm and focused. The same is true for event planning. There is no such thing as a perfect event – it does not exist! Things can and do go wrong despite all the planning in the world. With more than 20 years of experience, ESP knows how to handle these types of situations. When something goes awry with the car, the crew works frantically on pit lane to fix the race car. In the same way, the ESP staff works quickly and meticulously to address and correct any problems that arise.

It takes an incredible amount of stamina from the drivers, teams and the car itself. Our client’s car completed 714 laps on the 3.56-mile racetrack, which is more than 2,500 miles. That’s nearly the distance it takes to drive from Los Angeles, CA to New York City. Try doing that in a day! Although our client’s car didn’t take the checkered flag, it did finish the race. To many sports car aficionados, that is considered an accomplishment in itself.

Though our team doesn’t usually have to stay up 24-hours for an event, it sometimes feels like that. Most programs start in the very early morning and don’t wrap up until the late night. And just because the last guest leaves, that doesn’t mean the night is over for the team. Packets may need to be assembled and rooms set for the next morning. Most importantly, the timeline has to be reviewed to ensure everyone is on the same page.

More than anything, racing for 24 hours straight takes passion. You have to love racing to be able to muster the determination and strength to finish a race of that magnitude. We feel the same way at ESP. Though the days are long and it can become stressful at times, the feeling of accomplishment after an event is what makes it all worthwhile.

Although our team didn’t take the checkered flag, the car and drivers did finish the race and earned all-important points for the series title. For ESP, if the clients and guests are smiling at the end, then it was a win!

To learn more about Event Source Professionals, inc., visit